Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Desert Castles

Thanksgiving is long over, but I'm still recovering somehow. We've been so busy, with visitors and dinner parties and trips and holidays from school, that somehow there's been no time to write it all down. But, as Christmas is right around the corner, I suppose I should try to catch up while I still can.

Thanksgiving was loads of work and loads of fun. We had all of the Marines over, plus a bunch of people from Bart's office, plus our Beijing neighbors Mary and Jim, now posted in Baghdad. We plowed through two 20-pound turkeys plus all of the usual trimmings. Yum.

Mary and Jim came to our house straight from the airport, but they were staying at the Marriott, so after dinner, Bart offered to take them to their hotel. It's only 15 minutes away, according to the map (we'd never been there). So while he drove them to the Marriott, I started the cleanup.

Bart didn't come back. I waited and cleaned. Waited and cleaned. Waited and cleaned some more. Eventually he called: they'd missed a turn somewhere and were driving aimlessly around in East Amman. I could hear Mary and Jim laughing in the background as Bart cursed his way through our conversation. (Me: Where are you? Him: If I knew, I'd be home by now. Me: What street signs do you see? I'll look you up online. Him: The signs are all in Arabic, how should I know? Me: Why, exactly, are you calling me then?).

Well, eventually they made it to the Marriott. I'm told Bart went in with them to get directions back, and the desk clerk, surprised that he got lost, assured him that it was really quite easy to find - not a good thing to tell someone who has been driving around for an hour, lost.

So that was Thanksgiving.

The next Saturday, we took Mary and Jim to see some of Jordan's famous desert castles. Again, how hard can it be to find? But we missed the giant road sign that says "to Iraq and Saudi Arabia," and so we got lost once again. Good thing our friends have a sense of humor. Eventually we found the road to Iraq and headed that way. According to the guidebook, the first castle, Qasr Kharaneh, is an imposing structure, visible for miles around. But when Mary pointed to something vaguely castle-shaped in the distance, we all agreed that it wasn't huge or imposing, and was probably just a tourist trap (Castle View Restaurant? Gift Shop? Rest Stop?). But no - it really was the castle itself, as a teensy sign made clear after we took the turn onto the tiny road leading to the site.

It isn't technically a castle. It was built to look like one, way back in 8th century, but it was probably a meeting place for groups of travellers.

Here you see the whole family, gathered together in a window. Aren't we cute? But why am I blocking the window with my arm?

Because we're on the second floor, that's why. See that drop?

Some more castle pictures:

Next we headed a few kilometers further down the road to visit Qusayr Amra, a much smaller castle that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list because it is covered on the inside with very cool frescos.

No decent pictures of the frescos, but what a neat little castle it is. It had a little bathhouse and pool, along with a deep, deep well. The kids dropped a couple of pounds of pebbles into that well, trying to estimate how deep it was.

Back home again, we ordered take-out from a middle eastern restaurant. You'd think Mary and Jim would've gotten enough middle eastern food in Baghdad, but it turns out you can't just go hang out in restaurants with the locals if you're posted in Baghdad. Who knew? We had a great time gnawing on kebabs and reminiscing about our China days. And, as an added bonus, Jim fixed my computer! Remember when I blogged about my hard drive from China, which was mysteriously devoid of articles and pictures and other important files? Yes, well, the man fixed it. I'd say that was worth a kebab or two, wouldn't you? I'll have to figure out how to fly some chocolate chip cookies into Baghdad for them.

Enjoy the photos - I'll try to update you soon on our recent disastrous trip to the Dead Sea.


Becky said... [Reply]

Great photos! The Thanksgiving story had me laughing. Poor Bart.

Connie said... [Reply]

I love the photos, esp the one with Ainsley peeking out of the doorway. The light is great! I almost lost Brad several months after we moved here. We were here long enough for him to think he knew what he was doing, then one night, there was a detour... it took awhile for him to find his way home... and yes, he also called me! Like I could guide him in without a clue where he was??

Nomads By Nature said... [Reply]

Laughing so hard!!! We stayed at the Marriott while in Amman and got lost every freakin' time trying to get back at the end of the day!! We sooo feel for Bart! Our solution, after my hubby's cursing proved to be an ineffective rerouting technique, was to flag down a taxi that knew the Marriott and to pay him to drive and let us follow. Had to do that...TWICE!

GutsyWriter said... [Reply]

Haven't visited you in ages. Didn't know you'd moved from Beijing. You're really giving your kids the gift of a lifetime. They shall become risk-takers.

Jill said... [Reply]

Hey stranger! I've been so into my own world that I've been reading your posts, but haven't commented on anyone in so long!

Loved your photos - but I have to tell you... I was looking for your "baby girl" in the latest photos and I couldn't find her. And for whatever reason, it hit me, that Ainsley is no longer a baby. She's a big girl - and oh so adorable!

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and fun times with your friends.

Please. Write your own stuff.